A legacy of learning

Grandparents U creates unforgettable family bonds

| Author: Jason Fielder

Central Michigan University’s Grandparents U Summer Camp has become a yearly tradition for alumna Marjorie Sheppard ’77. This year's camp, held June 18-20, was the 16th she has attended. Over that span, she’s had 9 of her grandchildren go through it with her.

“They love it!” Sheppard said. “You should hear them talk about it. They love the class sessions.”

Sheppard, her husband John, and their grandkids Molly, Jacob and Kathryn were among the 116 people who attended CMU’s 17th Annual GPU Camp.

A family of five, including two grandparents and three grandchildren, sit on a staircase and smile. The boy grandchild is holding a parachute with a small red box attached to it. The girl grandchild holds a small red box.
The Sheppard family poses during the egg drop competition. Front row: Kathryn Hazelton. Middle row (from left to right): Jacob Hazelton, Molly Grant, Marjorie Sheppard. Back row: John Sheppard.

The event is for alumni and friends who are grandparents and their grandchildren between the ages of 8 and 12.

"Grandparents U is all about diving into fun, hands-on learning,” said Brittany Milan, Senior Associate Director of Alumni Engagement. “It's a celebration of family, education, and the joy of discovery, where every activity is designed to strengthen the special bond between grandparents and their grandchildren."

Participants spent three days and two nights on campus, taking part in interactive and educational hands-on sessions hosted by faculty and staff.

Classes included a behind-the-scenes look at WCMU public television, touring the campus police station, summer cooking for kids, and an egg drop competition, among many others.

In the foreground, a grandmother and her granddaughter are wearing aprons in a kitchen and making smores. In the background, a chef helps another grandmother and her granddaughter with their smores.
A grandmother and her granddaughter make s'mores during a cooking session.

“We love all of the sessions,” said Ann Edwards, a grandparent, who along with her husband, Bill, came from Maine to attend the camp with their two grandchildren. “It’s great spending quality time with them, and all of it is planned out for us, so we just get to enjoy them (without having to figure out how to entertain them).”

This was eleven-year-old Avery Roebke’s fourth year attending GPU. She says the hands-on activities, staying in the residence halls, and CMU’s tasty campus dining are what bring her back.

“Touring the police station is my favorite session,” Roebke said. “Taking fingerprints, doing the shooting simulator, and trying on the police gear was fun. (The gear) is so heavy!”

Two grandparents sit in the foreground while their three grandchildren sit around a table in the background, watching a police officer dressed in a CMU polo shirt teach them how to take fingerprints.
A CMU police officer instructs GPU students on how to take fingerprints.

The experience is so fun and memorable for the Sheppard family that Marjorie says she has older grandkids who wish they were still eligible to attend GPU.

“I’ve got a 15-year-old and a 13-year-old that went through it, and they said if my two youngest back out, they want back in!” Sheppard said with a chuckle.

Note: The term Grandparents University® is a registered trademark originated at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is used with permission.  

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